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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  February 14, 2020 4:30am-5:01am GMT

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this is bbc news. the headlines: in china, officials have confirmed at least 5,000 more cases of the coronavirus. 121 new deaths have been reported. the world health organisation has requested "further clarity" about a recent change in how china defines and diagnoses the disease. there are now more than 55,000 cases in the country. the us senate has voted to limit president trump's ability to wage waragainst iran. eight senators from his own republican party sided with democrats to require him to seek authorisation from congress before starting further hostilities. mr trump says the move threatens us national security and that he will veto it. un officials are saying since december, 800,000 people have been forced from their homes by president assad's latest military offensive in northern syria. it's believed around 60% are children.
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it is about liz30am. now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. remember the time when political discourse was founded on those quaint concepts — facts, evidence, expertise? well, now it seems partisanship infects every corner of the realm of ideas. so says my guest yesterday, nobel prize—winning economist and new york times columnist, paul krugman. his latest book suggests america's political and economic future is threatened by ‘zombie ideas‘ peddled largely by america's conservative movement. but has he become addicted to the partisan warfare he professes to despise? paul krugman, welcome to hardtalk.
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you set out to be — what, you define yourself as a technocrat, a specialist economist, and yet here you sit as one of the best—known columnists, airing your strong opinions on a weekly basis in the us media. what happened 7 well, partly, i got a newjob! if you're writing for academic journals, where a really hit article gets read by maybe 4,000 people, it's a little different when you start writing for the new york times, which has a circulation of 5 million or so. so you have to do things a little bit differently. but also i think the world changed.
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i think we've becoming much more polarised, partisan environment intellectually, than before. and i choose not to pretend otherwise. well, the world changed. i'm wondering whether paul krugman changed. and whether paul krugman, the dispassionate technocrat, became a rather angry man? well, if you're not angry about the way things are going in the united states, then there's something wrong with you. is anger a helpful intellectual emotion? as long as you can keep it under control. as long as you don't say things that you haven't — aren't grounded in evidence and analysis. soitryto — i mean — when i write a column, there's a rather — a rather large number of footnotes that don't get published. i actually do a lot of real research behind each one but obviously you need to take a stand and there are a lot of terrible things and a lot of really bad ideas out there and i'm not going to mince words about them. you say the world has changed around
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you and that's changed your role. but has it really changed? because it seems that your contention is that the conservative, republican side of the argument in economics and politics is fundamentally different today and different in a very malign way. because, whereas in the past you say there was some common ground, some shared values and ideas, now you seem to suggest that there is — and to use loaded words of yours, something "depraved" about the arguments coming from the right. well, yes, certainly it's changed. i mean, when we use the phrase "voodoo economics" to talk about the thoroughly refuted but somehow still shambling along proposition that tax cuts pay for themselves, who invented that phrase? and the answer was george hw bush when he was running against ronald reagan 1980. hang on, what about ronald reagan? well, ronald reagan was a purveyor of a lot of economic nonsense. now... so maybe things haven't changed as much as you would contend? well, no, they have gotten worse. i mean — i was actually in the reagan administration, believe it or not, as a —
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in a non—political role when i was a technocrat inside. and there were strange people, even in that administration. but there was still some role for expertise. i mean, ronald reagan did, infact, take some important measures to close the ozone hole. and then when george hw bush, the elder bush came in, he took some significant environmental steps against acid rain. so there was more crossover, more role forfacts. but each successive republican president in america has had the talent to make his predecessor look good. but there are — in your loaded phrase, "zombie ideas", that you say threaten america because they're still being peddled... right. ..despite the fact that you would contend that they've been completely undermined by the data, the facts, the evidence over many years. it seems to me the most important one of them is that cutting taxes for the richest individuals and corporations. to the republican side of the argument, it works, it generates economic growth.
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you're saying it doesn't. but right now, in the united states under donald trump, the evidence would seem to be on their side? no, what's happening under donald trump as we have huge budget deficits. what we're actually getting is keynesian policies, we're getting a large fiscal stimulus, a fair bit of it, by the way, being government spending. which people don't realise... and, by the way, you've never had a problem with deficits and stimulus and keynesian economics. that's right. no. if we could have done more fiscal stimulus in the past, at any time over the past ten years, i would have been for it. so why not give donald trump a pat on the back? well, because it was his own party that prevented that. they screamed about the evils of deficits as long as 0bama was in the white house. ok, but that's the past. so, saying "vote republican because if you do, then the republicans will stop sabotaging the economy", is not a very a healthy political argument. and, look, i will say that it's good we are running bigger deficits. i'm not complaining about that. we should be making better use of it. i mean, we're doing it for corporate
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tax cuts when we could be repairing our infrastructure. yeah, but, well, he says he's also addressing infrastructure needs. but clearly... but isn't. i mean, that's — that's we can document, right, that there has been no infrastructure plan. this is the fascinating discussion. here you are, the economist with a nobel prize to your name, committed to digging through the evidence. surely the evidence today the united states is that the trump economic management is working? look at the 6.6 million jobs created in three years, look at the lowest african—american unemployment rate on record. well, that's. .. look at of all the different signifiers which tell americans their economy is humming along in a very good place. yes, but it's — as i say, in the — to the extent that we're doing well, and by the way, this is a continuation. if you just looked at the chart of economic data starting around 2010, you would never know that there'd been a change of management in 2016, right? it's just a straight line of growth, ofjob creation that began under
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0bama and continued under trump. except i do note the congressional budget office at the time of the 2016 election did not project the growth and employment that we have seen since... but they underprojected it a bit. in that sense he has outperformed. a little bit. with his generous tax cuts. well... so your contention this is a zombie idea, frankly, doesn't wash. no, that's really being unfair. the claim on tax cuts, the republican claim — first of all, it's notjust that they think that tax cuts are good for the economy, but that tax cuts pay for themselves. and that's been utterly refuted. the deficit has exploded under trump. and remember when he was voted in, just about every republican in the senate said "i believe these tax cuts will not increase the deficit". well, they did increase the deficit. and then, look, if you throw, really, it's about $300 billion a year. if you throw $300 billion a year of extra purchasing power at the economy, even if you do it badly, i would say — any economist would say — that that's going to give
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the economy a bit of a lift. if republicans had allowed barack 0bama to spend $300 billion a year on infrastructure, he would have had — we would have had 4% unemployment five years ago. do you think it matters that the american public actually seems to approve of trump's economic management? i'm looking at this latest ft—peterson economic monitor index which shows 51% of americans now believe trump's policies — trump's policies — have either strongly or somewhat helped the us economy. that's the highest number it's been for a very long time. no, that's right. i mean, it pays. it turns out that — i mean, it's a little ominous, actually. if you were to read the record of american politics over the past decade, it says that the optimal strategy is to sabotage the economy while the other party holds the white house and then borrow freely when you hold the white house. and that does get rewarded. people react to short—term stuff. now, i don't think that's the only thing there that's going to matter, but yeah, any democrat who thinks that the right thing to do, should the democrats win this year,
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is that we should now become fiscally responsible and close the deficit, should look at the trump record and say "you know, that's not what wins votes". well, we'll get to what all of this means for politics and the us presidential election race just a little bit later. but i want to now get to another ‘zombie idea‘ of yours, one that you contend as completely disproved by the facts. right. and that is ‘inequality doesn‘t matter‘. because republicans and we indeed have had conservative economists like deirdre mccloskey on this programme saying that, "yes, inequality is a problem in america, but it‘s not a problem that acts as a real break on economic growth, because what really matters is encouragement of innovation, the rule of law, intellectual property rights, which allow great ideas to drive the economy forward." that‘s their contention. why is that a zombie idea? there are several points there. i mean, i actually — so it‘s interesting, there are quite a few people on the left who are sure that inequality hurts economic growth. and i have never been enthusiastic about that case. i think that‘s maybe
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because i‘d like to believe it, and so i actually try not to lean into ideas that i would like to believe. i think inequality is bad because, first of all, it means that large numbers of people don‘t share in the fruits of economic growth. we‘ve seen stagnation of wages despite productivity growth. we‘ve seen that for several decades. and i would also argue that inequality warps the shape of a society. when you start to have a situation in which there‘s a small group of people who live in a different universe, who don‘t use the public schools, who don‘t use public transportation, who don‘t rely upon the — you know, all of the common social things that everyone else depends on, and they have a lot of power because of their money, then society ends up under—investing in the things that we all really need to do. but how do you as an economist and a data guy and a liberal, respond to the conservative argument on inequality? in the end, particularly in america, what people really want is to aspire for something better,
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not just for themselves, but more particularly for their children. and the idea of saying to those who do really well are most successful and earn the most, that we are going to take your wealth and redistribute it, that‘s not american. oh, that‘s — but that‘s completely a misreading of our own history. i mean, we had — for a generation after world war ii, we didn‘t — allow rich people to exist. we‘ve never been a society that punished people for being rich, but we did levy fairly high taxes on them. and we used to — back under that socialist, dwight eisenhower, we had a top tax rate of 91% and the economy flourished. and it was also — that was also a period of enormous social upward mobility. we actually — the united states right now has the least upward social mobility of any advanced country. you know? the american dream is living in finland, these days. do you think — do you think most americans feel that? i think increasingly they do. the polling i‘ve seen suggests that americans are increasingly depressed
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about the prospects of living better than their parents did. and that‘s not a good sign. let me get back to a bigger thought about your notion of zombie ideas. it puzzles me. if these ideas are so self—evidently mistaken and wrong and knocked back by fact and evidence, how come they survive so successfully? ah. darwinian intellectual evolution would suggest that if an idea is completely wrong—headed, it will ultimately die. but you‘re saying these ideas refuse to die. one of the great quotes of american political intellectual thought comes from upton sinclair, who said that "it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." and if you actually look — take the case, who actually believes that tax cuts pay for themselves? there are essentially no professional academic economists who would subscribe to that view. it‘s completely unanimous that cutting taxes increases deficits. so who keeps these ideas alive?
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people who work at think tanks, people who work as lobbyists, people who are ultimately drawing their salary from wealthy individuals who stand to benefit from tax cuts. so it‘s an entirely corrupt enterprise. ah, so this is where paul krugman begins to sound like a conspiracy theorist. you begin to sound like, somebody — and what was it? hilary clinton, who talked about the vast right—wing conspiracy. except she... you seem to be suggesting the american people are being duped by a cabal of rich people, i don‘t know whether it be the koch brothers with their funds or the fossil fuel corporate chiefs, or the trump friends in their high—rise manhattan suites. these people, you say, are duping american public. well, it‘s not a... first of all, the american public has not bought this, by the way. if you actually ask, the polls show... well, who is the president of the united states? no, but that‘s — that was driven a lot by other issues. but if we take the, ah, if we look at the polling, do people think that the rich should be paying more taxes? a heavy majority of americans, even the plurality of republicans think that the rich should be paying higher taxes. so this — the people
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haven‘t bought into that, they just vote for other things. and, you know, it‘s not a conspiracy theory if there‘s an actual visible movement, i mean, you can actually track the money flows, you can actually look at the institutions that push these ideas. this is not some hidden cabal, this is right out there in the open. but it does make you, with that analysis, sound like a guy who no longer believes in american democracy. oh, i think democracy — what‘s the old line — i think it‘s the worst system there is, except for all the others. the only hope we have really of transcending this is by winning over voters. but the point that i make, the reason i wrote arguing with zombies, is that people sometimes have a hard time telling the difference. and it‘s important to inform people that a lot of what you hear, a lot of the ideas that are very prominent in political life are not actually being made in good faith. they are, in fact, ideas that are being made... so this gets to the heart
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of your argument — that you‘re arguing in good faith and you‘re analysing the evidence, drawing on the data, and being objective. and that your opponents, basically, as you‘ve just put it, are arguing in bad faith. in other words, they are knowingly deceiving the people. 0h sure... now, that‘s not true of everyone i disagree with. crosstalk. yours is a very simple moral world in which you are a good actor and your opponents on the political field are fundamentally bad actors, malign actors. not on everything. there are plenty of areas of legitimate disagreement. you know, should we be investing in high—speed rail? that is an actual arguable proposition, you can argue both ways on that. and i tend to be for it. but i can say that the people who are on the other side are in good faith. but on the question do tax cuts pay for themselves? is climate change real? in that case the people that i‘m arguing are, in fact, arguing in bad faith. and visibly so. right. i just wonder whether you ever reflect upon the impact of what you‘re saying?
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right. cause you write a lot about the toxicity of america‘s political culture today, where nothing can be taken as facts, nobody has, you know, a set of common, shared facts and data and evidence anymore because it‘s all been turned into tribal warfare. but you‘re part of the tribal warfare, because you‘ve just said to me that my opponents on so many key issues aren‘tjust wrong, they are essentially morally bad. but those are the issues i choose to focus on. and, ah, i mean, if i‘m part of a tribe, it‘s the tribe that does believe in the facts, that does believe in evidence. and i would be... but that‘s precisely what the other tribe says. no, they don‘t. well, at least they — it‘s not true. laughter i would be acting in bad faith if i pretended that there was a legitimate case for the proposition that tax cuts pay for themselves. there is no such case. there are no serious economists who believe in this. there are only, essentially, intellectual hired guns making that case. and i would be doing a disservice, i would be lying to my readers
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if i pretended otherwise. the thing is, though, you have been wrong at times... of course! ..because this entire conversation is premised on the fact that you‘re so careful, you look at the evidence, you are an expert, you interpret it with an objective, partial feel, that when you come to a conclusion it can be trusted to be right. but the trouble is, from time to time, you have been wrong. and then admitted it. so i made a bad economic call on election night 2016, which the right harps on endlessly. i retracted it three days later and apologised for letting my political... yeah, cause you said that electing trump would lead to an immediate disaster. and then three days later i said, you know, this is — i should not have said that, i let my political views colour my economic analysis and my economic analysis said that bigger deficits would actually lift the economy. so of course i make mistakes. yes, you were full and frank in acknowledging that mistake. but what about another mistake which, arguably, is a much bigger conceptual mistake. going back to the sort of thought of late ‘90s, you were always an embracer
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of globalisation. you thought it was great. you were keen for it to be the economic model for the future for the world. we now see that globalisation brought with it so much disruption, so much left behind problematic economics for people in the united states, in europe as well, who were not part of the new wave... i think you want to be a little... let‘s say what i was saying about... now, i have, actually, again, acknowledged. i actually like to acknowledge my mistakes, which makes me part of a very small minority of people. i always agreed with the proposition that globalisation was contributing to rising income inequality in the us. it was a question of magnitude. i said it was only a few percent. i would still hold to that. what i missed, but this is important, what i missed was the extent to which the impacts of globalisation could, while being relatively modest on an aggregate scale, could be extreme on a very local scale. so that when we import stuff
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from china that has a mild depressing effect on blue—collar wages in the us, but it has a huge effect on hickory, north carolina, which is a centre of furniture manufacturing... and doesn‘t it feed into the degree to which donald trump has struck a real chord with many americans in his standing up to china? and his insistence, through the use of tariff wars, that the chinese are going to have to back down on some of their economic policies regarding the united states... imean... that‘s a funny.. ..and, to a certain extent, he‘s winning that argument. actually, that‘s a very peculiar one. because of all of trump‘s policies, the trade war turns out to have almost no resonance with the public. it‘s an interesting thing. i‘ve been tracking that quite a lot. the trade war has almost certainly cost him votes, because the damage to american farmers has been really clear and visible and the benefits to us manufacturing are invisible, you can‘t see anything there at all. but surely the core message,
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america first, a focus on protecting the american economy, that does resonate. you‘d be surprised how little it does. i mean, when trump says "make america great again", and we have lots of evidence on this, what that really means to most of his supporters is make america white again. trade policy has been a very small part of the whole story. well, this comes back to, i guess, your feelings, and it is quite personal, your feelings about donald trump, you‘ve used all sorts of epithets about him, as he has to you, to be fair, he tweets out about his dislike of you and your academic analysis. but i‘m not doing these things, again, when i say this it‘s notjust because i‘m trying to come up with an insult. i‘m actually looking at political science analysis of the votes and so on. sure. so you don‘t want to... of course i‘ve gotten things wrong, everyone does. hard scientists get things wrong. but i try, always, to, when i come out with a view,
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to ground it as best i can and then, when i‘m wrong, say, ok, i was wrong, here‘s why i was wrong, and i will try not to make that mistake again. find me somebody on trump‘s side of the political spectrum who does that. let us focus, forjust a moment, before we end, on the democratic side of the political spectrum, because clearly that‘s the side you are hoping will take the white house in november. yeah. the polls right now look difficult, because donald trump has a core support which is very consistent and strong and the democrats appear to be struggling to decide who is the best candidate to take him on. yeah. what is your advice, given everything you see and study in politics and economics, what‘s your advice to the democratic party about the best candidate they could choose. 0k. i actually don‘t know. i mean this is — truly, i don‘t know. i think that our notions of electability are very, very poorly grounded in anything.
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what i would say is that whoever the democrats do nominate, it‘s going to be very important... the us public is, on economic issues, actually slightly ce ntre—left. people favour higher taxes on the rich, they want to maintain social programmes. but they‘re also conservative in a non—political sense, in the sense that if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it. so the democrats really need to emphasise that what trump is trying to do is to take away things that you count on. they‘re trying to take away medicaid, they‘re trying to hurt medicare, they‘re trying to hurt social security, they‘re trying to take away 0bamacare, which has become quite popular in recent years, and not make their main focus on the new things they‘re going to do, even though they should be doing new things. but the idea that trump is a menace to the programmes you, the average american family, count upon, that has to be the core of their campaign. and if they do that they have a pretty good chance of winning. but what interests me is your use of that word electability. do you think that the more radical agenda — and some would call it
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socialist agenda — of bernie sanders is going to be more appealing to put against donald trump or a more moderate buttigieg—style of politics? i have no idea. laughter i mean, i do think — i think it‘s unfortunate... the thing about bernie sanders is that he‘s not a socialist. he‘s actuallyjust a social democrat who has chosen to call himself a socialist out of some desire to sound controversial, which is fine as long as you‘re the senator from a small state, but it will be a liability if he‘s the nominee. will it? well, final thought then, we‘ve discussed in this interview your thoughts on the health of american democracy. if donald trump wins a second term, will you have grave doubts about whether the american system can survive? 0h, enormously. we are very close to a sort of hungary type scenario. if trump were as smart and self—controlled as viktor 0rban
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is we would have lost american democracy already. and we are at high risk of losing it in the next couple of years. paul krugman, it‘s a provocative thought on which we must end. i thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you. take care. thank you very much. hello. storm dennis on the way this weekend, nowhere escaping the strong winds, disruptive in places but concern growing aboutjust how much rain coming from it as well. 0ne rain band bearing south on friday but look how much rain is going to come from dennis on the weekend. this trailing weather front has
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along it several spells of prolonged rain, particularly into parts of england and wales and areas that have seen a lot of rain recently and some flooding. we are going to see some furtherflooding in places. the met office has a number of amber warnings in force for the rain and we‘ll look at those and other warnings injust a moment. and for friday, another spell of a rain moving south. quickly through northern ireland across scotland, coupled with snowmelt in southern scotland and a bit of flooding in some spots. rain becoming patchy in places as it works further south across england and wales. gusty winds though, particularly towards the north and north—west of scotland with further blustery showers moving in here. by friday evening, the rain peps up a bit once it reaches south—east england and east anglia. for man overnight and into saturday morning, it is the lull before the storm and still some dry weather first thing on saturday but it‘s not going to last. storm dennis then does bring rain in right across the uk during saturday. outbreaks of heavy rain at times and the wind strengthening particularly for the afternoon and into the evening before easing a bit into overnight and into sunday morning.
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wind gusts around 50 mph around the coast towards the west and south touching 70 mph perhaps in a few spots. really difficult travelling conditions. 0n the face of it, mild, but very wet and windy in places. heavy rain continuing across large parts of england and wales on through the night and into sunday. slowly clearings southward on sunday but it looks like the winds will pick up again this on sunday. bright skys and a few showers following on behind, turning a bit cooler too. looking at the weather warnings. the met office, amber warnings for rain across a large part of southern and western england and into wales, 20 to a0 millimetres. higher amounts, particularly in these areas and some of the hills of wales and south—west england could end up with over 100 millimetres of rain, so that risk of flooding increasing over the weekend. another amber warning area kicking in on sunday too forfurther prolonged rain across this part of southern england. in terms of the wind, well, widely, we‘re going to see some gusts inland around 50 mph or so but is the coast that we‘ll see stronger winds this
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time — touching 70 mph. then as storm dennis gets closer to scotland to end sunday and here into northern ireland, we could well see a number swathe of potentially damaging winds moving on through. that is your latest about storm dennis.
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this is the briefing. i‘m ben bland. our top story: as china deploys more of its military might in the fight against the coronavirus, over 5,000 new cases and 121 deaths are confirmed. donald trump‘s attorney general says he won‘t bow to political factors, amid questions over his agency‘s independence. and i‘m not going to be bullied 01’ and i‘m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody. an asset at the time, whether it‘s congress, the newspaper, editorial boards, or the president —— and i said. a bbc investigation shows how a group of british businesses helped the italian mafia make millions through fraud. willa legal crackdown see the wheels come off


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